CALL IT RELIGIOUS freedom, but Louis Farrakhan is into bigtime bigotry for the masses -- and too many people who know better are looking the other way. His garbage is drawing crowds too: some 10,000 people jammed into the Washington Convention Center on Monday night to hear -- and cheer -- his stream of vicious anti-Semitic comments and his attacks against any and all leaders of blacks who might challenge his disgusting sermons. And judging from the sounds of silence in too many corners, Minister Farrakhan's preachings of hatred are effective. Where are the responsible and respected leaders who can recognize a Hitler in any color, who can be most effective in calling bigotry when they hear it?

Much of what Mr. Farrakhan spews could be coming from under a pointed hood of white linen: "Jews know their wickedness. . . . Whenever you put a black man in office and he betrays the best interest of the people who put him there, take him out, and if he does not repent . . . we will tar and feather them, hang them by a limb, chop off their heads." According to columnist Courtland Milloy, "he even makes the audience laugh when he mocks the Holocaust."

There are people of good will who suggest that if the press just ignores this man and his messages, he will disappear. Yet without a single well-publicized advance word of Mr. Farrakhan's latest visit -- just posters and the spoken word along the streets -- 10,000 people show up to hear and cheer. He is news. He also is free to say what he wants, just as others are free to listen if they choose. But where are those who are free to refute hatred? What happens to a society that blesses bigotry with official silence?